“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”Matthew 7:21-23
Every Monday when I go back to school I hear my pupils discussing the weekend’s footballing action. “We scored some impressive goals!” they might say, or “we got a great result this weekend!” Being the pedant that I am, I always feel like saying, “you don’t mean we, you mean they!” But football fans get so caught up in the excitement of cheering on their favourite teams that their identification is so strong that it is almost as if they have played their part in getting the ball into the net.
Many people across the world identify themselves as Christians. Here in the UK, although the phenomenon is diminishing, a substantial number of people, when asked their religion, would reply ‘C of E’. Especially amongst the older generation there is the view that if you live in England, then, if you do not hold to any other religion, you are automatically ‘Church of England’. Whilst the Church of England is, of course, there for everyone, and as the established church, plays an important role in the life of our country, identifying with the ‘C of E’ is not sufficient to gain salvation. Jesus makes it clear that it is not enough merely to identify with him; he says that ‘only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus goes even further, though. There are those who earnestly believe that they are serving him, yet will not enter the kingdom of heaven. He says that some will say to him on judgement day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Yet he will turn to them and say to them, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!’
Some people don’t just identify with the Christian faith but believe they are fulfilling the obligations that Christ laid down for them. They would call themselves Christians, they might help with the tea and coffee after church, they might play in the church band, they might even run a church. Yet if, despite all of this, these people do not have a genuine and personal relationship with Christ then all their efforts, as noble as they might be, will not secure their place in heaven.
How can we be sure of entering the kingdom of heaven? Jesus tells us here. We must do the will of Jesus’ father who is in heaven. How can we be sure of what that is? By studying his word and listening to his voice, identifying from scripture the kind of people that Jesus wants us to be. And by praying, asking God to use the Holy Spirit to fashion us into people who will place his will first, and make serving him the number one priority in our lives. Ultimately, there is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation; ultimately salvation comes as a gift to those who place their trust in Jesus, acknowledge their own weaknesses, and gratefully accept that Christ died and rose again to win our freedom.
The question today is: do you identify with Christ, or do you actively seek to do the will of Jesus’ father who is in heaven?